My story isn’t about a drastic weight loss or life changing transformation but I overcame obstacles that others can relate to. This story will surprise some people that know me but I hope it can help others who deal with body image issues better than I have. As women, we hear about looking a certain way or being a certain size in the media and deal with it in some way or another each and every day. Looking at me, you would never guess that I had body image issues. I say this not because I’m cocky but because I carry myself in a way that seems confident. I am a personal trainer and it is my job to stay positive and be a good role model for my clients. In all actuality, it took me 33 years to look at myself and appreciate my body for what it was. I hope this story can help others learn to appreciate and accept their bodies much sooner in life.
I have been in the fitness industry for 10 years utilizing my skills to teach classes, personal train, manage a team of trainers and develop new program. I have had my share of weight fluctuations from having two children and just living life, but overall I have been a fit person who wants to help others learn to live strong and healthy lives.
I genetically have broad shoulders, biceps, big quads and a butt. This made me a great athlete growing up but “beautiful” is something I never felt with these muscles and athletic build. I have tried to hide my shoulders and biceps my whole life; from finding a prom dress that didn’t make me look like I could beat up my date, to my wedding day using my hair and veil to cover as much of shoulders as possible. I tried to change my throughout my life including ways that were very damaging to my body. These behaviors subsided once I had my girls, as I knew I needed to be a good role model for them. The last thing they needed to see was mommy throwing up.
Three months ago a personal training client of mine brought me a magazine that she discovered while traveling called “STRONG”. She asked me to take a look at it to see if it was “legit”… with all of the questionable resources out there, I agreed to look it over for her. As I opened the magazine for the first time, I realized it was filled with real women with real muscles. Unlike some magazines that show models demonstrating exercises, who I am pretty sure have never picked up a weight in their life, this magazine showed women doing dead lifts, tire flips and heavy squats! It was filled with great information and I realized how beautiful these women were even with their muscles.
After reading about STRONGCAMP in the back of that first issue and deliberating for two weeks about whether to step outside my comfort zone, I signed up! I had never spent this kind of money on myself… it wasn’t for continuing education or an opportunity to better myself for work or even to be a better parent… it was for ME. I felt selfish but I knew God was telling me to go. I knew no one else going to this camp and I am one of those women who would rather hang out with the guys, so a weekend with 50 women scared the crap out of me! I also wanted to see if competing in a figure competition was for me. I have been told in the past that I should consider looking into figure competitions because my “genetics” were good for it. I figured people at the camp would be a good resource for this information!
To make things even more nerve racking, my family realized how intrigued I was with the opportunity offered with the camp to do a photo shoot with Paul Buceta. For my birthday in June, they all went in together to give me this incredible gift for my 33rd birthday. So I was going to do my first photo shoot ever with one of the best photographers in the nation… no pressure, right?! Plus, what do I know about modelling and how could I possess any qualities to do this? If you ask me to squat or do pull-ups, I am extremely confident but to stand in front of someone I have never met and “just look pretty”…. was terrifying!
After a month of preparing mentally and physically for this challenge, I was ready to go! I had put on a little muscle and completely changed my eating. My body fat dropped and I felt great! I was so nervous for the photo shoot that I almost puked twice! Having a five hour drive to think about it didn’t help! When I arrived for hair and makeup, Paul made me feel comfortable right away. I posed, laughed, made funny faces and felt like a superstar… the pictures that were produced that day were amazing. I still look at these pictures in disbelief! That girl in those photos is strong and BEAUTIFUL… I can’t believe I was using that word to describe me! This was a moment I will never forget and has truly changed my life.
After conquering the photo shoot I was on to STRONGCAMP. We had a great meet and greet on Friday night and even though a few us were on guard, it forced us all to interact. Meeting Jessie Hilgenberg and Nichelle Laus was incredible. They are normal women, with normal lives who happen to be incredibly fit and beautiful! There were women there of all ages and sizes, but what I realized as I looked around was that everyone had shoulders, big biceps, strong quads and butts! They all looked like me. Our waitress said that she had never seen a more beautiful group of fit women together in her life!
Waking up on Saturday I was pumped for the workout and educational sessions. This is where I felt most confident! I know that my body can perform well because of the way I train so I was excited for this workout. I wanted to crush it! The workout was a blast and I sure got my sweat on with a boot camp from Jessie and kickboxing session with Nichelle! Being a trainer, I love being the student and getting the opportunity to get my ass kicked! I learned about new training methods and nutritional concepts that will be very beneficial moving forward.
Towards the end of our session on Saturday we were asked to write down what ‘STRONG’ meant to us. As I started to write I was overcome by emotion but tried my best to hold it in. Some people shared their definitions of STRONG and it was amazing to see these women that I wasn’t sure about during the meet and greet, turn in to real human beings with real problems. Some were happy stories, some were sad and some were so inspirational I could hardly believe it! It was hard not to be moved and I started to let my emotion show. I wasn’t ready to share my story yet because I didn’t know how much I wanted to let these women in to my life. After a nice evening of dinning on a rooftop with women from camp, it was time to turn in from an emotional and physically demanding day.
Sunday came with some excitement and a lot of soreness from the killer workout on Saturday! After a wonderful yoga session, we were asked to share our STRONG moment. At this time I realized that THIS moment was my STRONG moment and decided to open up to the 50 women I had just met. I shared with the group how I had struggled with body image issues, eating disorders and depression due to having an athletic build and how I never liked the way I looked. I spoke about the comfort I found in seeing other women with muscles and how I felt like I belonged there. This camp allowed me to love myself inside and out for the first time in 33 years! I loved my muscles now! And after I had opened up, others related and I found out everyone else loved my muscles too! I learned more about myself that weekend at STRONGCAMP than I ever thought possible.
My hope is that it doesn’t take 33 years for other women to accept who they are and love their bodies no matter what their size or shape. I see my two sweet young girls and I want them to know that being strong is BEAUTIFUL and no matter how they are built or what their skills may be that they are fierce and always loved.
Thank you STRONGCAMP Staff for giving me this opportunity and showing me how strong and beautiful I can be. I have made friends for life and will never forget this experience.